Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Elegance, carefulness and modest means

Conradin Kreutzer: Septet, Trio

The two Kreutzer chamber works recorded here by the splendidly named early music group Himmelpfortgrund (named after the suburb where Schubert lived) are exemplars of the Biedermeier style in music. In a musical world that celebrated larger-than-life geniuses like Beethoven, around 1815 in Germany the temperature got turned down several notches. In a surprisingly modern branding exercise Biedermeier became attached to a whole range of artistic and social movements and activities, with a new focus on bourgeois principles; sentimentality, though with careful limits on acceptable expression; and modest means. Instrumental and chamber music fit nicely into this new schema, and this Septet and Trio by Conradin Kreutzer fit the bill in every regard. Carl Dahlhaus in his book Nineteenth Century Music warns against the tendency to call the best music of this period Romantic and the music of mediocre composers Biedermeier; of course many poor composers can write in a Romantic style. Kreutzer is certainly a cut above mediocre, and the virtues of these pieces are modest in their scope only, not in their quality. The whole project, like the best Historically Informed Performances, has been undertaken with an admirable academic rigour along with infectiously enthusiastic musicality and elegant finish. Highly recommended, and not just for the Generation Biedermeier.*

Generation Biedermeier was the label given by Shell Jugendstudie to designate the mainstream of the younger generation in 2010, in which security and private happiness is more important than political engagement. Possibly this designation is no more useful than the silly "Millennials".

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